A fast paced computer animated adventure movie, I have mixed feelings about The Adventures of Tinin. It’s another one those “almost”s, but this time I know exactly what it needed—some freaking breathing room.
1—Nonstop Action is Confusing
The pace starts nicely, showing off the animation effects: the details of the outdoor market and its wares—particularly the set of multiple mirrors we get our first looks at Tintin’s face in. We meet a pair of bumbling detectives, a mysterious American Agent, and our villain. Things speed up and that’s fine, except they never slow back down. The Adventures of Tintin hits ramming speed not even a forth of the way in and just never stops, plowing right through the audience’s consciousness and leaving a wreckage of numbness in its wake.
The human brain requires time to process what it intakes. That’s what the slow parts of movies are for. So we can take it all in. Even books and comics need slower points of pace, and they have the advantage of the reader being able to pause and think about things whenever they want. An audience in a theater doesn’t get that.
Tintin bounces from one exciting thing to the next to the next to the next even when there are perfectly good places to stop and let both characters and audience catch their breath and reflect on all that’s happened so far and do you notice how hard it is to read this sentence without any commas? Yeah. Commas are the resting points of a sentence. They help us make sense of the structure. Pauses in a movie serve the same purpose. You’d really think the director/producer team of Steven freaking Spielberg and Peter real-life-hobbit Jackson would know this. Seriously, five more minutes broken into 30-60 second intervals would’ve made all the difference. This is the one movie I can think of that I enjoyed more with commercial breaks.
2—Lots of Story
Assuming you can manually pause in order to take it all in, Tintin has some interesting stories going on. Tintin’s quest for The Secret of the Unicorn (the movie’s subtitle), Captain Haddock’s quest to restore his family home and fortune, and the comic-relief detectives’ quest to capture a pickpocket. Oh yes, and the villain’s quest for a sunken ship. Seeing as the movie is based on three of the albums from the original Adventures of Tintin comic, you can see how it might get a little crowded.
But it doesn’t. Despite Captain Haddock occasionally living out hallucinatory ancestor-memories, events and settings progress in a well-put together order. Once you have the time to take it in—the pause button is your friend—you can see all the threads weaving together into a tapestry of story. There’s a logic to what happens, how the plot spools out from the characters’ motivations and decisions.
Decisions that take them all over the freaking globe.
3—Beautifully Detailed Settings
Damn, but they do atmosphere well in this movie. I talked about the market in the opening scene, a quaint street in Brussels, Belgium. From there we visit the ominous Marlinspike Hall, a gloomy gothic mansion. Then there’s the dank metal ship (don’t ask me what kind, I have no idea) Karadboudjan—yes, I spelled that correctly. I checked. But I love creeping down the corridors while the metal-whale groans surround us. I love the sense of tension—the last we get, sadly. Back to point one again: tension requires time to build. Moving on.
There’s a trek through the desert to a Moroccan port city, and my god is that architecture worth the dehydration. A sprawling palace that we get to see both from the sky, via the villain’s pet bird, and walking through the grounds. We also get to see a good part of the city, even if it’s being partially destroyed by a tank and motorcycle chase at the time. The movie uses its CGI to create a stunning world, once you pause to look. Ok, ok, I’ll stop harping on that now. Back to the special effects.
4—Motion Captured Actors
There’s a lot more to this technology than just strapping an actor in a funny suit, the details of which I won’t try go into—I’m not an expert, I just read an article by one. But my point is it takes a lot of work by a lot of people to make things go right on screen. We’ve all been through the Uncanny Valley, and thankfully that’s one place this movie doesn’t visit. The pairing of natural movement with stylized characters works well. The details of body language and movement lend a satisfying grounding in reality.
I could go on but it would basically be me expounding on that same point—like I said, I’m not a CG expert. But I think the technique and technology was used well.
So yes, I’d recommend seeing this move. Just keep the remote handy.